The writer-director behind genre classic ‘Jeepers Creepers,’ Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers, Powder) will soon return to cinemas throughout the land with a new horror tale that is sure to make horror fans stand up and take notice. His upcoming thiller ‘Rosewood Lane,’ which is set to be released next year, stars genre favorite Rose McGowan, McGowan plays Doctor Sonny Blake, a radio talk show psychiatrist, when she moves back to her childhood home after her alcoholic father dies. Once back in her old neighborhood, she discovers the local paperboy is a frightening and cunning young sociopath that targeted her father and now targets her. When the boy starts calling her show and recites eerie nursery rhymes, an unnerving game of cat-and-mouse begins. When the game escalates, she suddenly finds herself in a terrifying all out war, one that forces her to redefine her ideas of good and evil, and has her fighting to stay alive. Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Victor Salva to discuss his career, the origins of ‘Rosewood Lane,’ the casting of Rose McGowan and what the future holds for the ‘Jeepers Creepers’ franchise.
First off, I want to give our readers a little background. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a little town in northern California just outside San Francisco, called Martinez, home to Joe DiMaggio.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
I think at some point in every kid’s life there is a fantasy of being in a movie or on TV. Even if it starts as just role playing in the backyard with your brother and the neighborhood kids. That was certainly true for me.Though as I trace my fascination with entertainment back to my earliest days, I can recall my evolution of my goals. For instance, as an adolescent and into my early teens I was sure I wanted to be an animator. As a child of the 60’s, I was fed a long line of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, not just on Saturday mornings, but in the evenings too with primetime cartoons like THE FLINSTONES and THE ADVENTURES OF JONNY QUEST. In fact, when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I sent a picture of Jonny Quest I had drawn (and was especially proud of) to Hanna-Barbera studios here in Los Angeles and they sent me a written and signed response, telling me that when I got old enough, I could come and work for them.
Boy, I wasn’t expecting that — and it was a proud day at show-and-tell that week, I can assure you. But eventually, though I continued to draw into high school, a wonderful English teacher I had in my freshman year read a short story of mine and suggested I pick up a camera and film the story,
The rest was kind of like a runaway train. I wrote, starred, directed and edited over 20 or so short films and even attempted a couple of feature length thrillers before I had graduated. By the time I was in junior college, where I spent very little time, I was convinced, that not only were films my first love, but that I wanted to write and direct them.
Who were some of the influences that shaped you as a filmmaker?
Well certainly an early influence was Hanna-Barbera and specifically Jonny Quest as I mentioned. That is always what I cite as the first time I say stories that made me want to create my own. As a kid there was a wonderful balance of gritty reality (thanks to the show’s designer, top illustrator and comic book wizard Doug Wildey, aided by the amazing Alex Toth) but in Jonny Quest, there was a healthy helping of monsters, hi-tech science and an incredible musical score that really was my first exposure to how powerful music and orchestration could be.
Other early influences were of course THE WIZARD OF OZ, which I still think might be the finest studio film ever produced by the Golden Age of tinsel town, my brother and I revelled in the old Universal Monster movies.
My personal favorite was THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, but other films that I would say are seminal as influences that shaped my own storytelling would have to include a wide variety of different films and genres in both TV and film: THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS, ONE STEP BEYOND, THRILLER, JAWS, THE BIRDS, THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR, Houston’s MOBY DICK, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, MR. ROBERTS, THE SOUND OF MUSIC — when I was a kid I think I was gobbling up movies and TV like a starving man at a banquet, and each of the movies and series above, I would watch over and over and over again. There was no such thing as “too many times”.
You are a director, writer, and producer. Is there one aspect of film making that you prefer over the others?
Well, producing is probably the most stressful and the least creative. Because producing you are often forced or asked to compromise what you wanted in the telling of your story. Directing is a battle. And battles of any kind, I have never found much fun.
That leaves writing, which I probably enjoy more than directing or producing, but even that, depending on the project can be a chore or a thrill. My favorite part of the filmmaking process, is probably editing. Editing you do in a controlled environment, with talented people who help by being your second set of eyes — and if you have been a good soldier out on the battlefield of directing and shooting, then you have supplied yourself all the tools, the shots really, that you need to give your film its final and lasting incarnation.
I know it’s often said that editing is where the movie is made, and I think in many ways that’s true. It’s also where you see the reality of your story really come together. Beats you got on film, lines, moments that are simply takes, simply a collection of performances — now become working scenes. There is nothing like watching your own movie being born. Nothing like it in all the universe.
You’ve been a writer for motion pictures and television series. Which format do you prefer?
I have only had one of my teleplays produced, it was for an hour long anthology show and because I wasn’t asked to direct the script as well, I got to see first hand what the writer experiences as the director and the producers, after telling you how brilliant they think your script is — take it and turn it into something you would never want your name on. I watched the original broadcast of my teleplay once — and have never been able to watch it again.
What is your typical screenwriting process like?
It is different with each script. I was basically self taught, so I didn’t really have a lot of guidelines. I think the first thing I ever saw written for the screen as a teleplay. Rod Serling’s episode of The Twilight Zone called THE MONSTERS ARE DUE ON MAPLE STREET.
It was my only formal education in screenwriting really, because it used terms like CLOSE-UP and MEDIUM SHOT and TRUCKING SHOT. I was only 13 when I read it, but I was a very apt pupil.
I used to write in a linear fashion when I was younger. Like scene one, then scene two etc. But often times I was wasting a lot of energy doing that, patiently waiting to write the scene I really wanted to write. I don’t know what kept me from just writing any scene I wanted to, but for the first 15 years of screenwriting, I would patiently wait to write the scene I really wanted to write, even if it was days and pages off.
I don’t know just when, but I started to write out of sequence. I would write the big scene first, if that’s what was in my mind. Even if I didn’t have names for the characters yet, I’d give them quick names and just get all the dialog and action down on paper.
Then I could write scenes leading up to it, and make adjustments as necessary. I often times write the end of my script halfway through the first draft. I like to know where I’m headed and I don’t always have a lot of energy when I’m writing those last few pages — and your ending you want to be one of the strongest things in the movie, so you really want to devote time to it. So many times I write it as soon as I know what I think it will be. Even if I’m only a third of the way through the first act.
How do you think you have evolved as a director/writer since starting out?
I can only hope. I learn so much on each film. Each film is its own challenge and its own education. I can only hope I’ve learned more and more and became a better storyteller, but I’m not sure that’s for me to say. If it is, it’s only to myself. Others will each have their opinion. But I like to think I am maturing and understanding better the art of movie-making and storytelling.
Remaking classic movies is the current rage in Hollywood. As a writer and director what are your feelings on this latest trend?
That trend has always been around, and it won’t ever go away. Remakes are less about making good movies, and more about finding movies that already have a built-in audience. It is also much easier to pitch an idea that has already been a successful idea. But I think it’s lazy and sad, mostly. A lot of the film they are remaking were remarkable accomplishments, seems strange to see them trotted out, lopped up and cashed out like so many of them are.
New ideas are scary in a business where it takes millions of dollars to put an idea or a story out there. And you can understand the temptation to remake what has proven tried and true — but the proof is in the pudding. For every remake out there (and they are typically expensive and unsuccessful) how many great, original ideas are not seeing the light of day?
It was the original idea that more than likely worked so well that it has now become something we want to try and remake because an original idea is too risky and untried. It’s like a snake eating its own tail — it can’t see that it’s canibilizing itself and usually to no great financial or artistic advantage.
Tell us a little bit about your upcoming project ‘Rosewood Lane’.
When Sonny Blake, a big city radio talk show therapist (Rose McGowan) ends up moving back into her childhood home when her alcoholic father dies, Sonny finds her new neighbors terrified of the local paperboy. As a therapist she finds the idea ridiculous — until she meets the boy himself and finds out the hard way that he is a very dangerous young sociopath, one who may have killed her father and is now targeting her.
The film has been a pet project of yours for two years. Why has it taken so long to get off the ground and how excited are you to finally bring the story to life?
Very excited! I’m always excited when one of my stories gets to leave the page and hit the screen. There’s no feeling like it. ‘ROSEWOOD LANE’ took a long time to fall into the right hands at the right time, and at the right place, which I think is the origin of all the greenlights of all the movies in this business.
How will this project differ from your previous work?
In many ways it will be very different, because each film is never the same: this is the first film I have ever written with a female lead. That’s new territory for me. But I had a good time writing Sonny Blake. The writer goes on the journey of the character before anyone else does: even before the actor who will play the part. And I found writing for her a lot of fun and a lot of work: digging deep to see what she might be feeling as her dark journey takes her deeper and deeper into the dark doings of her “demon paperboy” as one character refers to him.
What was the biggest challenge you have come across so far with this project?
Every film is an enormous challenge. There are no easy ones. Every aspect of a movie is a challenge. From securing financing, to casting, to location scouting, to shooting — it’s all major stuff and all tasks that need to be mastered, so I wouldn’t know where to begin to rate the different challenges we face on this film.
The star of the film is Rose McGowan. How did her casting process play itself out?
It was relatively simple really. She was on a very short list of actors we thought would be great Sonny Blake.
Are you a fan of Rose’s previous work and what do you think she will bring to the role?
Have always enjoyed her mix of strength and vulnerability. Both make her pitch perfect to play the very first heroine in my career. Making every film is an adventure and I am looking forward to Rose and I going on this adventure together.
We have noticed there has been some talk about Jeepers Creepers 3. What can you tell us about the status of that project?
‘Jeepers Creepers III: Cathedral’ has been ready to go for a while now, it has had its struggles as many films have in the economic downfall and the slimming of slates that even the big studios have had to do. But a common misconception is that MGM owns the Jeepers franchise. Actually they don’t.
Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope owns it. And they have been making best efforts to get the Creeper back in the air and with wings spread to their hilt. I think this might actually be the year the film gets made. I hope so. If for nothing else, just to repay the loyalty and the patience of so many fans of the Creeper from the world over.
With that in mind, the third installment of the Creeper’s saga has lots of goodies for the Jeepers fans, including the return of the wonderful Gina Philips as Trisha Jenner, Patricia Belcher as Jezelle Gay Hartman and Brandon Smith, all who the Creeper has left an impression on 23 years ago.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to pursue a career in the entertainment industry as you have?
One of the things I’m careful to do is make the distinction that all I can offer in the way of career counseling in the entertainment industry, is the value of my own experience. My own journey.
I don’t give advice, I share what my experience has been. And what I tell people is simple: this is the hardest business to get into, and you have to want it more than anything else – to put the effort in that might get your foot in the door.
I made films most of my young life. When I was in my 20s, Francis Coppola saw an amateur film I had made and liked it. I approached him for some career counseling about how I could make a career out of making feature films. It just so happened that I showed up at the right place at the right time and to the right person — I also had my film to show him.
If you take my tale as a path to follow, then master your craft by practicing. By doing. Not by dreaming, not by waiting for other people to make it happen for you. Don’t burn up time waiting for someone to see how brilliant you are. You have to show them.
Show them something that says you can do this, and well enough that you are worth their time and attention. For me, I was making film after film after film, all through high school and into college. I did it because I loved it. It was hard and I was holding down two jobs and working on my films on the weekends, but I did it, because it was what I really wanted to do.
I was learning by doing. And by the time I met Francis Coppola, I had learned enough to show him a film I was proud of. Sure it was amateurish, and rough around the edges, but he saw that it was a film by a filmmaker. A gonna-be instead of a wanna-be, as I have heard some people say.
Others say I was just lucky. And I certainly was. But there’s a saying that luck is really when opportunity meets preparation. Opportunity knocked and I had been working hard preparing for it, by making films for years. My advice – though I don’t like the word or its inferences — to anyone who wants to pursue a career in entertainment is perseverance, and commitment. And most importantly, make sure it’s something you love. That it is your bliss you are chasing. It’s the only thing that makes the struggles, the disappointments and the rejections that come to everyone, in what is easily a fairly brutal business, worthwhile.
Get the latest information on ‘Rosewood Lane’ at the official site for the film at www.rosewoodlanemovie.com, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rosewoodlane and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rosewoodlane.
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.